Monthly Archives: January 2015

Criminal Justice at the Crossroads: Transforming Crime and Punishment

William R. Kelly, professor of sociology
and director of the Center for Criminology and Criminal Justice Research at the University of Texas at Austin, discusses
his new book, “Criminal
Justice at the Crossroads: Transforming Crime and Punishment
,” and the costs of mass incarceration.


The following is
a transcript

Hi. This is Raphael Pope-Sussman for the Center for Court Innovation. Today I’m speaking with William Kelly,
professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin, and the author of the new book, Criminal Justice at the
Crossroads: Transforming Crime and Punishment, from Columbia University Press. Professor Kelly, thank you for speaking
with me today, and welcome.

is my pleasure.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Why is this a crossroads
in the American criminal justice system?

I believe we’re at a decision point that was triggered from the recession that began in 2008, that caused states
to start taking a hard look at how they spend money. They began to realize that crime control was a very expensive
proposition, and that began the discussion affecting about how might we go about doing this differently, primarily
motivated by trying to save public revenue. That seems to have begun to evolve into a broader discussion of, not
only saving money, but trying to be more effective in how we go about the business of administering criminal justice.

It’s a crossroads because of the opportunities that have been presented by economic
considerations, really a fair amount of lead from the U.S. Justice Department. Eric Holder, when he was the attorney
general, launched a discussion about being “smart on crime.” And those types of phrases and that type of thinking
has really begun to take hold.

Your book explores the origins and evolution of America’s fixation on this idea of being “tough on crime.” Can
you give our audience a sense of what that’s translated into in terms of policy?

Beginning in the early 1970s, we shifted policy rather dramatically from focusing more on rehabilitation than on
punishment. The events of the 1960s, 1970s–high crime rates, race riots, campus protests, led to the evolution of
a focus on controlling crime primarily through the mechanism of punishment. That policy, at the time, made really
quite perfect intuitive sense. The problem is disorder; the remedy is punishment. Policymakers got it; the public
got it. That launched decades of what we call “crime control,” or “tough on crime” policies that led to, among other
things, a really substantial capital investment in things like prisons, extraordinary expansion of the criminal justice
system, fundamental changes in statutes like sentencing laws that shift discretion away from judges to more determinate
sentences that, in the end, are more severe, changes in parole policies and laws that keep inmates in prison longer
and longer.

As the dust has settled on 45 plus years of tough on crime policy,
we see the largest prison system in the world. We are the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world.
I think the public is getting to be familiar with the statistics that we have 5 percent of the world’s population,
but 25 percent of the world’s inmates. The image that the world has about the U.S., is the use of incarceration,
which is certainly a distinguishing point, but that’s not the end result of the reach of the American criminal
justice system. It is much bigger, much broader, and deeper than that. Jails serve to incarcerate huge numbers of
individuals on a day-to-day basis. Probation and parole, versions of community supervision, also have very extensive
reaches in terms of supervising and trying to control criminal offenders.

end result of this has been a fairly deliberate march, decade after decade, into developing a fairly efficient system
of punishment. Unfortunately, as it turns out, punishment doesn’t work. It’s legitimate to want to punish somebody
for punishment’s sake. That’s fine, but I think part of the bigger picture here is we need to appreciate
that retribution as a motivation for punishment has no utility other than some emotional satisfaction or emotional
release that we get from an eye-for-an-eye type of approach.

What was the biggest revelation for you in researching and writing your book?

Now that is a really good question. I would say the greatest revelation is that a fairly comprehensive package of
reforms that I talk about in the book, that are evidence-based, for which we have sufficient scientific research
indicating that these are effective mechanisms, that that package of reform is feasible. It is doable. It is cost-effective,
and it can accomplish the goal of enhancing public safety, reducing victimization, and saving money.

I think the thing that’s the most troubling thing about it, about the path forward, is not
so much the mechanics of what reform should look like. In my mind, the most concerning challenge is changing how
we think about crime and punishment, changing the culture, not so much of the public, but the culture of the administration
of criminal justice. We’ve all been pretty much focused on trying to punish people, and it’s difficult
to change the environment, the day-to-day working environment of probation officers, of law enforcement officials,
of, in-particular, prosecutors. Some individuals will embrace some reform more than others, pretty much as we saw
what happened with crime control decades ago.

What are the most promising reforms or proposed reforms out there?

Diversion is the key in terms of overall umbrella policy going forward. We should reserve prison, which all evidence
indicates is criminogenic in and of itself–we should reserve incarceration for those people, those offenders, that
we reasonably, truly, fear, violent offenders, clearly habitual offenders, not just somebody who has a third strike.
Those are the individuals that we need to incarcerate. That should reduce the prison population dramatically. Everybody
else should have some version of a balance between control, compliance, accountability on the one hand, and rehabilitation,
behavioral change, on the other.

Another major challenge is the scope and
scale of the criminogenic circumstances that bring criminal offenders into the justice system in the first place.
We know that poverty and crime are linked, but today we know that it’s much more than just, “I don’t
have money because I’m poor. I’m going to have to go out and commit a crime.”

are clear neurodevelopmental implications of living in poverty. There are clear neurocognitive implications of being
in an environment of violence, and all the factors that are correlated with poverty play out in a variety of different
ways, including mental illness, substance abuse, things like that, but a much bigger and ever-evolving list of implications
in terms of the less-visible neurodevelopmental problems. If you ask the basic question, “Why didn’t punishment
work?” The answer is, “Because punishment doesn’t change somebody’s mental illness. Punishment
doesn’t address addiction recovery. Punishment doesn’t fix somebody who has a neurocognitive deficit or
impairment.” Punishment doesn’t address why many people commit crime.

this is not an excuse for crime. Criminals commit bad acts and they need to be held accountable, and we need to keep
the public safe as we attempt to change their behavior. In my mind, and I believe the evidence pretty clearly supports
this, that environment of behavioral change is not prison, but rather a balance of supervision and control in the
community, and vigorous efforts at behavioral change.

I’m wondering what you think the ultimate goal of reform is. Is all policy dictated by the bottom line?

KELLY: You know, I think the thing that’s going to
move the public and policymakers in the direction of serious criminal justice reform is precisely that, the money
issue. We can debate until the end of time what is morally correct, what is ethically correct, what is fair, and
what is just, but if we want to attract attention from a variety of different perspectives, and I think that’s
precisely what has happened here, the reason that the Koch brothers and Right on Crime are at the same table as the
ACLU is the same reason that we had sentencing reform in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. We had both political
parties concerned with different things, but with the same solution.

the conservatives, were concerned about judges being too lenient. Liberals were concerned about unfairness and discrimination.
The remedy was, get judges out of the picture. I think it’s the same thing here. What brings the Koch brothers
and Right on Crime to the table, at least initially, is the financial issue. What brings the ACLU and liberals to
the table is that we can do a better job of this. We can make it a fairer system, but also, perhaps, a more effective

I think they’re at the table and I think they’re
heading down the same road. That road is one that appreciates the fact that, while behavioral change may be expensive,
it is not nearly as expensive as what we have been doing in terms of simply incarcerating individuals. The evidence
indicates that, in the moment, using interventions to change behavior is generally cheaper than incarceration, and
I think what policymakers sometimes fail to appreciate is that, for every offender that we can effectively change
behavior, every time they don’t reoffend, the cash register doesn’t ring. The cost savings we can incur
now will reap benefits longer term if we can reduce recidivism.

How should we define success?

KELLY: I think
success is multidimensional. After a period of serious reform effort, can we look back and say, “We have really
developed a system that is more cost-effective”? That’s important, but that is not the end game. The end
game, really, is public safety. Can we then, at some point, say, “We have effectively by whatever amount reduced
recidivism”? Can we say that we have a system that does not unnecessarily place all the rest of us who are not
involved in crime at the risk of being a victim?

Public support–does the
public believe that justice is being done? Reducing inequity in terms of race and ethnic concentrations of individuals
in the justice system, and, ultimately, the extent of which we can take individuals who grow up in circumstances
many of us would find foreign and horrific, can engage them in sufficient behavioral change to become productive
members of society.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Thank you.

KELLY: My pleasure.

This has been Raphael Pope-Sussman for the Center for Court Innovation, and I have been speaking with William Kelly,
author of the new book, Criminal Justice at the Crossroads: Transforming Crime and Punishment from Columbia University
Press. For more information on the Center for Court Innovation, visit

Hospital Seeks to Halt Violence Among Minority Youth

Our Lady of Lourdes Memorial Hospital in Binghamton, New York is working with community partners to develop
a restorative, strength-based program that will divert high-risk youth from gang involvement as well as violent behavior.
At the kick-off summit for the Minority
Youth Violence Prevention
initiative, Nancy Frank and Ralphalla Richardson discuss how they became interested
in partnering with police to help stop the cycle of harm in some of Binghamton’s struggling neighborhoods.


The following is a transcript

SCHWEIG: Hi, I’m Sarah Schweig of the Center for Court Innovation, and today, I am just outside Atlanta, Georgia,
for the first summit for the Minority Youth Violence Prevention Initiative out of the Office of Minority Health at
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who partnered with the Office of Community Oriented Policing at
the U.S. Department of Justice. Today, I’m here with Ralphalla Richardson and Nancy Frank from Lourdes Memorial
Hospital in Binghamton. Just to start off, Nancy, who is the director, will just talk a little bit about why you
guys got interested in Minority Youth Violence Prevention.

a hospital system, we are part of a department called Youth Services Department, and we’ve been running programs,
youth development programs, since 1996. We have been running juvenile justice programs for youth, juvenile justice
prevention programs, and being a hospital system, we also are looking at mitigating some of the risk factors for
the social determinants of health. One area that we’ve really wanted to get into is the restorative justice
area of being able to look at youth violence with a different kind of lens. One of the programs we currently run
is a detention alternative after school program, but these kids are already in the juvenile justice system. We’ve
talked about wanting to get kids before they enter the system and use more of a preventative approach. We have, for
many years, been providing youth services in our county–in Broome County–and also in Binghamton. That was our interest
in getting this program together.

SCHWEIG: Wonderful. Maybe Ralphalla can
talk a little bit about some of the things you’ve been doing with the youth. I know we had a conversation before
about some trips you guys take and what you see that affecting with the kids you’re working with.

RALPHALLA RICHARDSON:  Because we’ve been doing the detention alternative
after school program for so long, we’ve learned some really cool things. Like by taking the kids and exposing
them to just different situations, different environments, you get a very immediate and visceral reaction, so we
implemented a lot of that into our, we’re calling it BCAST in our area, Binghamton Community and Schools Together.
What we’re hoping to do is do some team-building trips. Like our local ski resort has a ropes course, so one
of our first big trips is all the kids in the program are going to go out, do some ropes course, do some team-building.
But we’re also going to do trips to science museums as incentives to keep them going but also then do other
trips to NICUs, kind of show them the adverse effects of getting involved in risky behaviors.

NICUs is…

RICHARDSON: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Oh, okay.

RICHARDSON: Also doing maybe interacting with some parolees recently
that are their own age. But also maybe going into what it’s actually like in jail because there’s this
very glamorized version of it but actually let them see what it really is. You get more of an immediate switch in
behavior, and then doing the follow-up work with our in-school groups, working with the SROs there, doing structured
recreation activities after school where the SROs can also be involved and build those positive relationships. We

FRANK: SRO being the School Resource Officer.


RICHARDSON: That’s our police component to build that healthy relationship
with the local law enforcement but also to address some of the parent behaviors. They have their own negative impression
of the police force so to work with them to improve that but also to address their own immediate needs to improve
the home environment, so that some of the changes the kids are working on have a better chance of sticking. So the
entire family can improve.

SCHWEIG: One thing that either of you could answer
it sounds like is that partnership with police. How did you guys really establish that? I feel like every city is
very different in terms of the relationship the police have with other agencies. Sometimes they tend to be more siloed,
sometimes they’re more out in the community, so maybe you can give a little bit of a sense of what that was

FRANK: Well, we started this process by reaching out to the mayor of
the city of Binghamton who, ultimately, oversees the police department for Binghamton. He was very interested in
doing this program, so he’s on board. They’ve started a Youth Success initiative through the city of Binghamton,
and the police also sit on that. It’s a Community Youth Services Board. They’re going to be acting as our
advisory board in a sense. That’s one area that we have to start focusing a little bit more on is the police

However, with partnering with the BOCES programs, there are kids
from Binghamton who are attending BOCES schools, so there are two different they’re called learning centers,
east and west. Each of those buildings have School Resource Officers who some are from the Binghamton Police, some
are also from our Broome County Sheriff’s Department. Our kids are pretty transient, so many times they move
from Binghamton to other parts of the county. To be able to have that good relationship not only with the city police
force but with the county sheriff’s department is not a bad thing as well. We’re still working on that
aspect of it, but it’s a new development. It’s not really something we’ve done before. We’ve
had a lot of interaction with the county attorney’s office, probation, but not so much law enforcement. That’s
the piece that we really are excited about adding to our existing program.

Yeah. That’s what this whole summit is about is ways of partnering…


SCHWEIG: … across health and policing.

One thing we’re real excited about is we’re having a community-wide restorative justice training. We’ve
been able to use the funds through this grant to bring in a gentleman by the name of Duke Fisher who is a nationally
renowned expert on restorative justice models. He’s had a lot of success working in schools, college campuses,
communities, and he’s going to be coming in and doing a free training for our community stakeholders. From that
training, we’re going to identify facilitators to actually be able to perform restorative justice activities.
It’s something that’s not being done in our community, and we’re really excited that this grant’s
going to allow us to bring that. That’s a sustainability piece because when this funding goes away, to have
people that are trained to continue a different way of looking at juvenile justice and youth offenders. We’re
excited about that.

SCHWEIG: That’s wonderful. Maybe a last question
to add is just from your experience and starting this process, do you have any takeaways, any lessons for any of
the other sites however anecdotal it might be just because you’re in a very unique situation where you’re
in a hospital, you have this program already in place? Any sort of suggestions?

I would say just don’t be afraid to think of unique ways of doing them. Just because you haven’t done it
before doesn’t mean you can’t, and it’s people that you maybe are hesitant to think of that would
want to partner with you are more than willing to because that was one of the things when we started letting in our
community, letting other agencies that we hadn’t even approached when we were writing it, writing the proposal.
You know, “We got this,” and telling them what we were doing. They were so supportive, and they’re
all like, “What can we do?” Once you actually tell people what you’re doing, you’d be surprised
how many people actually want to help you and want to be involved in the process.

One example of that is there’s the Healthy Lifestyles Coalition that was funded by a private not-for-profit
foundation, and they’re running out of money. But they have established great connections in a particular neighborhood
in Binghamton with the parents of the kids in that community, and they do a lot of cooking classes and things like
that. We’re sort of starting a discussion with them to say, “Well, how can we go in then with this established
group and do some of the things that we want to do? We can pay for the food…” Just those connections, and
we’re a small community. Everybody kind of knows everybody, so it’s been …

Using other organization’s knowledge or populations-


SCHWEIG: Seems really helpful.

connections, especially with what Nancy was saying with the parents. That’s a really hard group to break into,
but this particular agency, they’ve had some great success in engaging these parents–

And neighborhood.

RICHARDSON: Yeah. It’s a neighborhood that really could
benefit from this violence prevention because it’s a rougher neighborhood, and it’s a generational: generations
of poverty, generations of high school dropouts. That we can actually use their connections, and they’ll almost
vouch for us. They’ll be like, “These people are okay. You can”–

FRANK: Right.
Trust them.

RICHARDSON: It’s giving us access to people we hadn’t

FRANK: Thought about. Right.

Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for speaking with me today. Hopefully you enjoy the rest of the visit. I’m
Sarah Schweig, and I’ve been speaking with Nancy Frank and Ralphalla Richardson of Lourdes Memorial Hospital
in Binghamton, New York, about gaining trust within communities and partnering with people you might not have normally
thought of. To learn more about the Minority Youth Violence Prevention initiative, visit
Thanks for listening.